Today was May Day (aka International Workers' Day/Labor Day) around the world. While Bavarians might be busy erecting May Poles, many Berliners seem more ready to grab their placards and Molotov cocktails and hit the streets to partake in political celebrations, demonstrations, and even riots organized by unions, anarchists, and socialist groups. This being the first time I have experienced a truly celebrated May Day, I was thankful that EXBERLINER published a May Day for Dummies - and a Dummy on this subject I certainly am. From what I understand, things apparently get even more out of hand than a Franklin Street celebration after a UNC victory over Duke.
What made this May Day a bit more unique is the fact that Neo-Nazis planned a march in our neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg (having lived here long enough now, the idea of Nazi extremist rallies is sadly no longer new to me over here). As pre-registration for public demonstrations is required by law, they registered themselves and their intended location with the police. Of course, the very idea of Nazis marching - even being given the right to march - evokes strong emotions in Germany (as you might well expect and even ponder yourself). But marching through a left-wing district of Berlin on such a socialist-inspired day evokes even stronger emotions. Thus, in the true spirit of May Day, Berlin's left-wing contingent planned an Anti-Fascist demonstration to stop the Nazis in their tracks. The Berlin air was palpably politically charged and the scene was set for violent pandemonium.
We were repeatedly warned (even got a note from the US Embassy) not to venture out into specific neighborhoods today for safety reasons, although I must admit a part of me really wanted to go out and watch the chaos erupt. But don't worry, Mom! Lauren and I went to the May Day market at Kollwitzplatz instead, where the only chaos we saw was caused by children on a moon-bounce and fresh asparagus being sold with wild abandon. Besides, one of Berlin's newspapers, Der Tagesspiegel, provided live blog coverage and pictures of the demonstration, so we didn't have to risk anything to get an insider peek.
The night is still young, and the worst may be yet to come. But rest assured, we are hunkered down for the evening. Happy May Day!